Cycling the backroads of Vancouver Island: the Port Renfrew Loop
Word is that November is one of the wettest months here in the Vancouver area, but together with Paul and Jan and lots of raingear we are happy to take on the challenge and decide to cycle the backroads of Vancouver Island.
A couple of days ago Paul & Jan picked us up at Horseshoe Bay and the four of us cycled the last couple of kilometers into big city Vancouver. They led us on Marine Drive, over Lionsgate Bridge and through Stanley Park and on bicycle paths along the creek we traverse the city to ‘Hotel P&J’, where we will stay untill our flight back to Europe.
Lionsgate Bridge and the skyline of Vancouver
Jan had a couple of days off, which allows us to discover Vancouver Island. Early Friday morning we stuff our four bicycles and all our panniers into the back of their truck and drive to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. The heavens have already opened and it’s pissing rain… the three kilometer ride on the causeway to the terminal leaves us soaking wet, oh joy! November is living up to it’s reputation! The ferry meanders through the Gulf Islands and soon we arrive in Swartz Bay, where our backroad adventure on Vancouver Island starts. Traffic quickly dissapears as we cycle towards the Mill Bay Ferry on mostly flat but quiet roads. The ocean is calm and clouds are hanging low as we spot a couple of seals, or mini-whales according to Jan! 😉 I guess we stick to the seals, even though ‘mini-whales’ sound much more spectacular!
In the early evening and about 60 wet kilometers later we arrive at our Warmshowers host’s house at Cowichan Station. Dwight comes home from work right about the same time and he quickly lights a fire so we can dry our raingear and warm up. Dwight is a very friendly and highly active guy, giving us acrobatic gymnastics shows on a horizontal bar in his living room. Both Paul and Elmar try hopelessly to impress us women too by hanging on the bar, but they fail miserably. 🙂
Cowichan Rail Trail
We backtrack to the Cowichan Rail Trail, where we had crossed the Kinsol Trestle the day before and start following the trail towards Cowichan Lake. The trail is a series of potholes filled with water; yellow and brown maple leafs are laying on the muddy ground and trees are covered in green moss. With the fog hanging in the forest it feels like we have entered a scene of a ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie.
Jan, Paul and Elmar crossing the Kinsol Trestle
Moss covering the trees
Jan cycling the Cowichan Rail Trail
After Cowichan Lake we set course to Port Renfrew and we start with a gradual climb to almost 400 meters on a paved road, but there is hardly any traffic. The road winds it’s way up and leaves us with great views of the surrounding green mountains. Just as we reach the top, it starts raining again and the downhill is a very wet affair as we pass a giant spruce and stop for a moment at Lizard Lake for a quick lunch.
Leftovers from Halloween
Elmar cycling the Cowichan Rail Trail
Right out of Port Renfrew we start with a steep climb and from then on we rollercoaster along the coast. The sky is clearing and clouds are rapidly disappearing which makes us decide to stop early and camp at French Beach. After we set up our tents we take a walk to the rocky beach and enjoy a colorful sunset over the Olympic Mountains in the United States. We make a fire in the shelter’s stove as humidity comes rushing in and darkness is surrounding us. The stars that night are abundant.
Sunset over the Olympic Mountains
Elmar and Paul are leading the way
Camping at French Beach
Just outside of Sook we pick up the Galloping Goose Rail Trail and ride straight into Victoria and to the Strathcona Hotel. It’s time for a day off and with our private guide Deane we watch the Memorial Day parade, witness a very personal Indian ritual at the largest totem pole in the world and visit the shops in Chinatown.
Completely in style we finish our bicycle ride on Vancouver Island: it’s raining cats and dogs, a storm is blowing and hail is hitting us in our face. It fits our mood though… since these are the last kilometers we cycle on the American continent. Europe, here we come!